Stele of Kaka & Benit.
EGYPTIAN OLD KINGDOM Anonymous
24th-22nd c BCE Egyptian Egyptian Old Kingdom Painting
(c. 2755 BCE - 2255 BCE)
2350 BCE-2134 BCE
24th-22nd c BCE
Egyptian Old Kingdom
Naga ed-Deir Egypt.
Chicago. Oriental Institute Museum.
In this work, created almost a thousand years later than the "Palette of Narmer", we see the same conventions used, although the proportions of the figure are a bit more refined. Egyptian artists used a conceptual rather than an optical approach to art: they illustrated what they knew to be true, and did not just present a random optical view. Egyptian artisans sought clarity above all, and for that reason each part of the body was shown from its most characteristic angle: legs, feet and head from the side and shoulders and torso frontally. The parts seem to be placed almost at right angles to each other.
In the construction of such a figure, a grid of squares, based on the size of the human fist, was placed over the figure. Using this grid system, by copying what was in each square the artist could reproduce the figure to any size, or construct other figures, all of which would have the same proportions.
Above the figures is a long inscription in hieroglyphics, the Egyptian system of picture writing, which asks the passersby to provide nourishment for the deceased:
"You who are upon the earth,
you who love life and hate death,
who shall pass by this tomb
May you give me bread and beer."
However, since posterity was not always faithful in leaving periodic offerings, the custom developed of portraying the offerings either carved or painted in the tomb, thus assuring a continuous if symbolic supply. This need of the dead for the nourishment that sustains living beings was a consistent feature of Egyptian culture, just as the proportions and conventions used to create the image were amazingly consistent throughout the history of Egyptian art.
Inscription: You who are upon the earth you who love life and hate death who shall pass by this tomb may you give me bread and beer.
EGYPTIAN | Stele of Kaka & Benit. | 2350 BCE-2134 BCE | Egyptian | 1st Intermediate Period